This week I’d like to thank the officers whose efforts to get drugs and weapons off the streets of Plymouth and South Devon has been so effective in the last few days.
In total 46 people were arrested during Operation Medusa. Seized drugs amounted to more than a kilo of crack, powdered cocaine worth £4,300, heroin worth £8,000 and £5,000 worth of cannabis. These are now safely off our streets and will be destroyed.
An imitation firearm, two crossbows (one of which was pointed at officers as they entered a property) three knives and a baseball bat were also seized, along with Rolex watches worth an estimated £60,000, 11 cars and nearly £10,000 in cash.
Large parts of our community are considerably safer because this operation, which saw Devon and Cornwall officers work with a new Home Office funded team from Merseyside Police who are dedicated to tackling ‘county lines’ a method of drug distribution which is an abuse to our communities, often targeting young or vulnerable people.
It is a cowardly crime because those taking the risks are exploited by the suppliers who make most of the money. Those in trouble at school, in pupil referral units or adults with learning disabilities will be targeted for recruitment and ordered to sell drugs or mete out violence to rivals. When they are no longer of use they will be dropped, by which time they may have a criminal record, their homes will have been turned into distribution centres for drug users and they may be addicted to narcotics.
For residents of a community where a county lines operation has set up it can be a living nightmare, with drug users visiting around the clock and antisocial behaviour on their doorstep.
Fortunately the police are now well aware of the tactics deployed by these gangs, which typically operate out of the UK’s larger cities, and know the signs to look for. Forces including British Transport Police are working in lockstep to tackle the issue.
The Project Medusa team were resourced to help in Devon and Cornwall over four days last week. They consist of a team of highly trained specialist drivers, plain clothes detectives, uniformed patrols and a prisoner handling unit. Devon and Cornwall Police officers assisted by preparing detailed intelligence reports on key suspects, vehicles and homes used in the drugs trade.
The Merseyside team know which individuals to look for. They are also equipped with an enviable amount of kit, from high speed vehicles to powerful saws used to cut through doors.
With automatic number plate recognition cameras deployed to track vehicles used by dealers, roadside operations were fast paced and successful, and combined with visits to homes and foot patrols there were 11 people in custody by lunchtime on day one.
Police were not the only ones involved in the operation. Young children were found at one property where dangerous class A drugs and weapons were present and social services were on hand to provide the help they needed.
This type of operation is important for so many reasons. Not only are drugs and weapons taken off our streets, with dealers facing sentences to pay for the misery they cause, but young people made vulnerable by their actions are now engaged with the services that can offer them safety and security. It also sends a message to elsewhere in the country that Devon and Cornwall is a hostile environment to drug dealers, and that if exploitative dealers pay us a visit, they might well find their trip extended with a unforeseen stay at Her Majesty’s pleasure.
While the excitement of the raids and seizures of this operation is behind the team, the officers who have put months of work into preparing for Op Medusa still have a colossal amount of work to do with the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure that justice is done. The Merseyside team said that Devon and Cornwall was the best prepared force it had visited to date, so I want to pay tribute to those at Charles Cross Police Station whose passion and drive has so helped their community become considerably safer.
I know, because you tell me this in every community that I visit, that drug dealing and use is something that you want tackling, that’s why it’s one of my four Police and Crime Plan priorities, that’s why you can expect more operations like Medusa.
If you have been a victim of crime please report it to police, in an emergency call 999 or in a non emergency call 101, webchat or email the police via devon-cornwall.police.uk. Alternatively, to stay 100% anonymous, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers online at Crimestoppers-uk.org or call Freephone 0800 555 111.
Victims of Crime can get free expert advice 24 hours a day from Victim Support on 08 08 16 89 111 or via victimsupport.org.uk.